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Install and Setup

No news is good news it has been said. One might say that means that the less we have to say about Install and Setup, the better; since lengthy discussion means it wasn't quick and easy as it generally should be.

Unfortunately, there is some news. SoftDVD runs a nifty install routine called AUTO-SENSE that identifies system hardware and automatically assigns optimal settings. Worked adequately it seemed, but my problems were in the setup after install. After a 2nd version was supplied to get around the SCSI issues, I found that enabling Hardware Acceleration was problematic. The player seemed to cling to previous DeInterlace and Hardware Acceleration settings. I found it necessary to stop and restart the player, make changes to DeInterlace and HW ACCEL, and only when I did the switching in the right lucky order would the new settings take effect (They showed as ON, but were not actual enabled). Juggling the settings on and off a few times got it rolling. As always, it is hard to trust ATI video drivers for good control stability (Many DVD players have issues with ATI Hardware Acceleration working reliably). However, WinDVD and Cinemaster have no troubles with it, so it can be done. Troublesome it may be, ATI Hardware Acceleration is still the finest DVD acceleration in the industry when its working. It is used in all Rage 128 & Radeon video cards, so good players should make it work.

The advertised requirements for SoftDVD aren't light! The stated minimums are 300mhz if you use a card with DVD Hardware Acceleration, and 400mhz without. I don't mind this, as I prefer companies just SAY you can't play their software on a Pentium 166, but many still choose to not inform users that it simply won't work well. Testing at 400 MHz showed SoftDVD could playback smoothly with Hardware Acceleration unchecked (Only some titles!), but barely. Even the 600mhz P3 seemed strained with Hardware Acceleration off, so lets say you can't have too much power for DVD playback. PS - SoftDVD MAX offers great Headphone support, but it comes at a High price. A full 30% performance hit when Headphones are used! At least 400mhz is needed with Hardware Acceleration on to make headphones enjoyable. K6/Celeron owners may need 450mhz plus Hardware Acceleration!

The available audio/video setup controls are Adequate, but that's all. Speaker controls are semi-automatic with only 3 output modes. It could use more video adjustment sliders, and audio selections are a bit sparse; but overall its adequate on most accounts. Also, MS-DirectSound support is there, but on the test system it was invisible on initial install. I enabled it via a registry hack, but I do not know why it was not automatically made visible? Perhaps an issue with AUTO-SENSE deciding wrongly that the Vortex-2 card didn't support DirectSound? Headphone support is nice and easy to set up.

Aside from having to stop/restart/retoggle some settings before I could get them working (And this may be an ATI problem rather than a SoftDVD problem), and the hidden DirectSound controls; setup was fine. Install files, choose settings for audio and video, and fire away. If the retail release can fix the toggling issues I saw, and figure out why my DirectSound capable Vortex-2 card was denied seeing the DirectSound option, then Setup would get an A+. For now, it does the job. I would like to see More controls. More adjustment sliders, More sound options, and aspect ratio controls. Still though, it handled the basics fine.

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